Welp. They kept a lid on it, folks.
Sine die, part 1
The House on Tuesday passed legislation ratifying nearly $1 billion in CARES Act funding, giving the blessing to the less-than-legal process used by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee last week to approve $568 million in direct payments to local governments, $290 million in small business relief payments and up to $100 million in fisheries relief payments.
There was little room for shenanigans with the measure because it’s not an amendable appropriations bill. The final vote was 38-1 with Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, casting the lone no vote against the measure, arguing that it should have been an appropriations bill.
Following the vote, the House adjourned sine die bringing and end to the session on that side of the building.
The Senate passed its own version of the measure on Tuesday on a 19-1 vote (Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold was the lone no vote) and will take up the House version this morning at 8:30 a.m.
The swift approval of the legislation sidestepped major political pitfalls that could have snagged session and drawn things out when the Legislature doesn’t have a large margin of error. Today is the final day of the 121-day session.
The administration says that payments to local governments could start as early as Friday and the small business grant program could get going on Tuesday. More details of that plan are here.
No remote working (or anything else)
The Senate passed SCR 16, a measure that would allow the Legislature to meet, do committee work and pass bills via videoconference in the event that things aren’t safe to return to Juneau in the future. It’s a measure that some legislators pushed for before they left Juneau in March.
The measure would allow legislators to meet from legislative information offices or, if no other means are possible, via phone with approval of the chamber’s presiding officer.
It sounds like a good measure, especially considering the trouble created in the past month over the approval of the CARES Act funding but it wasn’t meant to be.
The measure requires a higher bar than a simple majority and the House apparently couldn’t muster the 27 votes needed to pass it, hence the sine die.
Moving forward, any special session would require all legislators to meet in the same location.
The sine die also means that two bills the House had put on its calendar, the near-the-finish-line alcohol tax rewrite and motor vehicle tax hike, were both left near the finish line.
Reopen Alaska Responsibly
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced that businesses will be able to return to full capacity on Friday.
“It will all be open, just like it was prior to the virus,” he said.
Whether businesses or customers actually return to work and shop is ultimately unknown.
Local municipalities can also slow roll the decision if they choose to, and it sounds like Anchorage will follow its usual path of giving it the weekend before following the state.